Gangrene is a condition that occurs when body tissue dies. It is caused by a loss of blood supply due to an underlying illness, injury, and/or infection. Fingers, toes, and limbs are most often affected, but gangrene can also occur inside the body, damaging organs and muscles. There are different types of gangrene and all require immediate medical attention.
Blood plays a very important role in your health. Not only does it transport oxygen and nutrients throughout your body to feed cells, it delivers disease-fighting antibodies that protect your body from infection. When blood cannot travel freely throughout the body, your cells cannot survive, infection can develop, and tissue can die from gangrene. Any condition that affects blood flow increases your risk of gangrene, including:
In earlier stages, the skin may be pale and either numb or painful. In wet gangrene, the affected area will be swollen with blisters oozing fluid; and the area may be red and warm with a foul odor. Gas gangrene causes severe pain, fever, and the skin will crackle like bubble wrap when pressed.
When gangrene affects your skin, signs and symptoms may include:
If you have a type of gangrene that affects tissues beneath the surface of your skin, such as gas gangrene or internal gangrene, you may notice that:
A condition called septic shock can occur if a bacterial infection that originated in the gangrenous tissue spreads throughout your body. Signs and symptoms of septic shock include:
Gangrene is a serious condition and needs immediate treatment. Call your doctor right away if you have persistent, unexplained pain in any area of your body along with one or more of the following signs and symptoms: